Article on the militia and communitarianism
Professors Glenn Reynolds and Brannon Denning have a William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal article on the subject, well worth reading.
The core theme is that the communitarians (who seek to revive the sense of community, as separate from government and from the isolated individual, a popularized version being Hillary Clinton's "It takes a village to raise a child") tend to be anti-gun because it's, well so nasty. But in fact, throughout most of American history, communitarianism centered around the compulsory militia. It wasn't people without callouses turning out to build Houses for Humanity, it was most of the adult male population turning out, with firearms, to organize, drill, and prepared for group defense if the worst should come to pass. (The professors have an interesting invented dialogue, which I'll put in extended comments). It's a good read, and I'd urge downloading it.
One can imagine the following exchange between a government representative and a member of one of today's neomilitias:
GOVERNMENT: You have no right to operate a private militia. The only militia recognized under the Second Amendment is a state-sponsored militia. Private groups have no standing.
MILITIAMAN: A state-sponsored militia, eh? Which one is that?
GOVERNMENT: The National Guard, of course.
MILITIAMAN: Don't be silly. The National Guard is not universal, and it isn't state-controlled. At best, it's a select militia of the sort that the Framers disliked.
GOVERNMENT: Oh, all right. The truth is, we allowed the real militia to die. It wasn't good for much. We couldn't even use it to invade Mexico or Canada. Furthermore, the professional military didn't like it.
MILITIAMAN: Fine. Because you admit you've defaulted on a constitutional obligation that is "necessary to the security of a free state," we've resorted to self-help. We'd rather see a universal militia of the sort the Framers envisioned, but only the government can create that. We've done the best we could in light of your default. And you should be estopped from complaining, until you have lived up to your constitutional obligation.
GOVERNMENT: But private militias are dangerous. They don't necessarily represent the whole community; only portions of the community join such groups. They are prone to being infiltrated by malcontents, and they scare people.
MILITIAMAN: All true. That's why we should have a universal militia. Too bad you guys have fallen down on the job.
Despite its half-whimsical treatment here, the argument is a serious one. If a well-regulated militia of the sort the Framers envisioned is as important as a Communitarian interpretation of the Second Amendment suggests, then there is a constitutional argument for self-help in the event of a government default. Such an argument would likely fail in court, but that does not necessarily diminish its political, or even its constitutional, force.
The easy solution is to take seriously the Second Amendment's first clause. Doing so, however, is likely to pose problems for the Communitarians' stated goal of domestic disarmament.
i think i may have seen this argument in real life, though from a slightly different angle.
i've served in a conscript army, of the exact sort so many americans despise the very thought of. it was considered a kind of citizens' obligation, where i was born, to prove you were willing to help your country at least symbolically. (there was also an unarmed civil service option, meant for conscientious objectors; an argument could be made that those guys actually did more to really help their country, in a non-symbolic way. but that's another debate.)
there were indeed strict limits to what that conscript army could have done; invading other countries would not have been in the cards, any more than a citizen militia would have managed that. but for defending the home turf from foreign invaders, it would've been just the ticket.
most of the kids who served with me were almost as disillusioned and sick and tired of it as i was; but if that army's reservists were ever to get called up for the purpose of fending off an invasion --- i'd jump the next flight back, even though i was the worst slacker brat in my unit, and i'd do it proudly.
Posted by: - at January 30, 2007 07:01 AM
"Communitarianism" is not, in and of itself, a bad thing; it's related to Chesterton's "Distributism," and (ideally) is derived from Charity.
But charity is the virtue most easily mis-used and perverted, particularly when it's mandated by Government.
Posted by: dad29 at January 30, 2007 07:59 AM
I have often wondered why no D.C. lobbyists have pushed for a reinvigoration of the militia, especially in light of today's homeland security environment--and gobs of Federal dollars. All the necessary legislation is there to support the creation of state-sanctioned military forces. There is money to be made, at the very least!
This Arizona Republic article talks about the concept getting some attention by the Arizona State House this month.
Posted by: Poshboy at January 30, 2007 02:45 PM
Poshboy, What we have now is a select militia (i.e. National Guard). At the founding the militia was (essentially) all able-bodied male citizens. This legal fiction is maintained in 10 USC > Subtitle A > Part I > Chapter 13 > § 311 (most recently revised in 1956). Of course, now the state governments really don't want their citizens armed, organized and mission capable. They want control and the National Guard (which is really a reserve of the standing army) gives them that. That said, reactivating the militia is a good idea and consistent with our founding principles. Many of the Founders argued that a "select militia" could emerge that would not be broadly representative of the population as a whole, but consist of a faction with interests and an agenda contrary to the general population. They were correct - unfortunately.
"The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it."
---Richard Henry Lee (signer of the Declaration of Independence), The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
Posted by: RKV at January 31, 2007 11:20 AM